05 | 14
2012

Melanesia and Indigenous Australia: white privilege and the ‘rule of law’

Categories: ACT Government, Asia-Pacific, Australian Federal Police, Discrimination/Racism, Equality, Government, International Law, Law, Law Enforcement, Pacific Neighbours, Racism, Rule of Law

by: Bakchos
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Melanesia and Indigenous Australia: white privilege and the ‘rule of law’

… first, I made him know his Name should be Friday, which was the Day I sav’d his Life; I call’d him so for the Memory of the Time; I likewise taught him to say Master, and then let him know, that was to be my Name.

Daniel Defoe (1719), Robinson Crusoe

In the Nineteenth Century Robinson Crusoe gave rise to many imitations in which white lads were cast up on imaginary islands where they proceeded to demonstrate their cultural and moral superiority to the indigenous people of the area. Other adventure stories of the time dispensed with the island setting, but nonetheless maintained the Crusoe themes of struggle and survival to inscribe the white/non-white dualism in colonial contexts. Thankfully, most of these ‘Boy’s only’ adventure stories are now deservedly forgotten, though for those who have an interest in them, they are generally available and conservatively priced in the ‘old and collectables’ shelves in many second-hand bookshops. While forgotten, these ‘Boy’s only’ stories about white/non-white dualism in colonial societies were very influential in their time and have had a lasting effect on the way white people view indigenous people to this day.

R.M. Ballantyne, perhaps best remembered for his adventure novel, The Coral Island [1857] was one of the more widely read ‘Boy’s only’ adventure writers of his time. Ballantyne’s The Dog Crusoe and his Master is one of the better Crusoe themed adventure stories which dispensed with the island setting. The Dog Crusoe and his Master is set in the United States in the early days of westward expansion and focuses on a band of ‘heroic’ white hunters who are depicted as innately superior to the native Indians:

It has always been found in the experience of Indian life that a few resolute white men well-armed were more than a match for ten times their number of Indians. And this arose not so much from the superior strength or agility of Whites over their red foes, as from that bull-dog courage and utter recklessness of their lives in combat – qualities which the crafty savage can neither imitate nor understand.

If you take the time to sit down and read The Dog Crusoe and his Master, which is not an utterly wasted experience, the reader will discover that the whites are also portrayed as being morally superior, while the Indians are shown to be aggressive, cruel and deceitful. The stated aim of the white protagonists is to make peace with the tribes, treating them honestly and mercifully, and permitting one group to go free even though they had captured two hunters with the intention of killing them. The actual history of white expansion is ignored and replaced with a flattering myth.

The problem with ‘Boy’s own’ type literature is that while the novels themselves have been largely forgotten, the messages they contained have become hardwired into the psyche of post-colonial society and manifest in unexpected ways. An example of a modern manifestation of the Crusoe type interaction between white/non-white is “Wonderboy”. This video game was created by a company called Fujin in California that makes games exclusively for the Sidekick.

The hero of the game, Wonderboy, is searching for his lost girlfriend, Tanya. Wonderboy is portrayed the way typical heroes are portrayed — white guy with blonde hair and blue eyes. During the course of the game, in order to advance, Wonderboy must kill some of the “natives” he encounters, with the ultimate goal of killing the “brutish king” and rescuing his girl.

According to the game description, “With an ax in hand, nothing will stop you (Wonderboy) from saving her: not even a few bats, spiders, and other gruesome creatures.” The “gruesome creatures” are of course, the indigenous-looking characters, the natives.

What Wonderboy and other games like it are doing is reinforcing the Crusoe message; Indigenous people or “the natives” are not really humans, and so white people need not consider us being important in their world. In a sense, these messages inform what today we call ‘White Privilege’.

In reality, the biggest problem with White Privilege is that white people are born with it so they never have to acknowledge it as a “Thing.” There was never a day when they didn’t have it. They never had to live without it and then wake up one day to see a package of White Privilege in the mail.

White Privilege is not only something you don’t think about, it’s also something that is not discussed in ‘polite society’. Not only is it not being discussed, more significantly, many people aren’t even aware of the term. I’m not opposed to earned privilege – the privilege that is, which comes from individual excellence, whether that excellence is intellectual or commercial is unimportant – what is important is that the privilege was earned. What is unacceptable, is privilege that derives solely or predominately from the hue of one’s skin or from one’s ethnic origins.

Racism is man’s gravest threat to man–the maximum hatred for a minimum of reason. Abraham Heschel

A privilege attaching to an individual based solely on the hue of their skin is called racism. Racism or the type of racism Abraham Heschel describes in his aforementioned quote, is active racism. Racism does not have to be active; it can be subtle, or more insidiously, it can be imperceptible, just part of the way things are done or are. Another way of expressing this would to be to coin a term such as “White Privilege”, for example.

Australia and the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific

While Defoe and Ballantyne wrote about white/non-white dualism in the America’s, the same type of forces were at work in Australia and the Pacific and as would be expected, the results were very much the same. Every Indigenous person living in Australia or in the so called ‘arc of instability’ are to the mind of White Australia. Nothing more than Friday’s, we are expected to know our Name and our place in ‘white’ society, which is to call whitie by his name Master! In this relationship, the Indigenous person will never be equal; a scorned side-kick, but never an equal.

It is because of this Crusoe type mentality, that organisations, such as, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (“DFAT”) and the Australian Federal Police (“AFP”) believe that it is acceptable to artificially construct circumstances in which Indigenous peoples can be arrested in questionable circumstances. The most recent, but by no means isolated example of this type of behaviour is the disgraceful manner in which DFAT and the AFP treated the Prime Minister of Vanuatu when they arrested his private secretary Clarence Marae at Sydney Airport late last month.

Mr Marae was arrested on ten year old fraud related charges. I have no problems with criminals being brought to justice. What I have a problem with is when white authorities construct artificial situations so that they can apprehend Indigenous suspects, while at the same time refusing to arrest white suspects living under their noses in Canberra. To date, the AFP have refused to charge the white assailant of Ms King, who is Australia’s most senior Indigenous female bank executive. They won’t arrest and charge her assailant because she is Indigenous and her assailant is a well-connected white Canberra beaurocrat. This is despite the fact that as late as November last year she brought the matter to the attention of Mr Brendon Smyth, Deputy Leader of the Canberra Liberals and member of the ACT Legislative Assembly.

Like R.M. Ballantyne’s The Dog Crusoe and his Master, the AFP are ignoring actual history and replacing it with a flattering myth about white morally superiority versus Indigenous cruelty, aggressiveness, and deceitfulness. What the indigenous people of the Pacific need to remember is that in Australia the word justice has been replaced with ‘just-us’, meaning that white justice is just for white people and injustice becomes the norm for the Indigenous peoples of the region. Injustices which range from condoning genocide in West Papua to kidnapping the Attorney-General of the Solomon Islands to treating the Prime Minister of Vanuatu in a highhanded and disrespectful manner.

The university upon the hill,
had a professor
Who’s bizarrely thrilled
To list all of the oppressors —
Past, present, and future — who have killed.
Are killing, and will kill the indigenous.
O, he names the standard suspects —
Rich, white, and unjust —
And I, a blak man, think he’s correct,
But why does he have to be so humourless?

And how can he, a white man, fondly speak
Of our doomed culture,
That, he sent to Hell?
The professor says, “Muslim people
From all Muslim tribes
Will burn skyscrapers and Christian Church steeples.
They’ll speak Arabic and carry guns and knives.
Australia, can’t you see that immigration
has doomed our culture to Hell”
All I can do is laugh and laugh
And say, “Damn, you’ve got some imagination.
You should write a screenplay about this shit —
About some fictional city,
Grown fat and pale and pretty,
That’s destroyed by an immigration apocalypse.”
The professor doesn’t speak. He shakes his head
And assaults me with his pity.
I wonder how he can believe
That an uncontrolled foreign influx will cause his death.
I think that he thinks he’s the new Jesus.
He’s eager to get on that cross
And pay the ultimate cost
Its hard to see racism when you’re white

Adapted from an original poem by Sherman Alexie who self-identifies as a Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian.

 

20 Comments

  1. Yes there really is a thing called white privilege, we don’t see it, we don’t speak about it, but it is there and it’s ugly and nasty and children are taught about it from the time they can play video games, if not before. No wonder Indigenous people in this country can’t get a break.

  2. The benefits that come with white privilege are way too many to count. They include better access to education, health, transport, which lead to better job opportunities, better incomes and a better starting place in life for the next generation. As they say “it is not rocket science.”

  3. ‘Just-us’ in reality is what the Australian justice system is all about. When was the last time an Indigenous Australian received real justice from any Australian court? The absolute injustice is that white Australia is growing pale and fat off someone else’s land and resources. Where is the justice in that?

  4. The AFP have really struck a blow AGAINST womens rights and equality in Australia. So the word of an Aboriginal bank executive is less than the word of a racist public servant. Really that’s what the AFP are saying – think about that one! Every woman in this country should be up in arms on this issue.

  5. Sue you’re absolutly right what happened to Ms King has set the bwomens movement in this country back decades. It’s all been done by male racists in ACT Treasury and the AFP. Interesting that the ACT now has a female Chief Minister and she won’t stand up the males that have allowed this crime to go unpunished. Likewise Australia has its first female Prime Minister, her silence on the issue is golden. As women we need to speak out about what the male racists have done to this woman.

  6. Girls you are absolutly right the male dominated AFP are saying to every woman in Australia it’s OK for a facist male prick to rape and abuse us, so long as he has political connections nothing will happen to him. Was not Ted Quinlan ACT Minister for Police when the assault on Ms King occurred? Just goes to prove what Darren said in his statement is true. Where is the justice for women in our community?????

  7. The AFP have really kicked women in the guts on this one. Why is it that a racist fuckwit ACT Government employee who can’t pass first year accounting at CIT has got more rights than an Aboriginal female bank executive? Talk about white male corruption. This issue goes beyong racism it affects every woman regardless of race in Australia. If the fuckwit from ACT Treasury does not go to jail over this – well it’s time to take the issue to the streets. The ACT has an election in September/October. Girls time for action!

  8. Girls I think you have hit on something here, something big that has been missed before. What the AFP have done regarding Ms King is not only racism, it is an attack on every woman not only in Australia, but everywhere the AFP operate. It is a disgrace, but also an opportunity to speak to a bigger audience about what the real affects of the male dominated, racist and sexist AFP is and can be on every Australian family.

  9. Where is the accountability? Where is the justice? Fuck I wish I tripped and scored a goal when I played Soccer could have spent the rest of my life whinging and trouble making, Fuck what a life. Hey AFP just because you trip and score it don’t make you no hero or honest. Grw up you useless pieces of shit.

  10. Kick the AFP out of the Pacific, hey haven’t Vanuatu already done that. Hey Solomon Islands, Fiji, PNG, etc… take note, invite the Chinese in, I’m sure they would love to fill the gap left by a departing white racist Australia.

  11. The Australian federal Police are nothing more than a pack of racist dogs, woof, woof, woof….actually my dog just had a go at me for insulting it – the AFP are lower than Whale shit, she tells me…so sorry Sally, so sorry for the insult!

  12. Look if the AFP would just fuck-off from, well everywhere, the planet would be a much nicer place to life. I for one have had a gut full of white racism, yellow racism, shit even black racism. Time to make a stand, you and I and everyone togetner singing no to racism and corruption.

  13. Ain’t no law in Oz if ya a darkie! The Aussie ‘just-us’ system is a crock. Another issue we need to take to the streets!

  14. We were all doing just fine until whitie arrived. So what you say Mr White Man, fuck off, and all will be well again!

  15. Arrogance pure and simple looks like China gets another free kick in the Pacific!

  16. Anne Shiny via Facebook says:

    Reg Glass, I am with you. Colour, ethnicity and gender should not matter, but unfortunately they do. Enough anti-racist rhetoric. It’s time some real action was shown and that requires Australia to hold each person accountable, be they a police officer, a politician, a celebrity or the person on the street.

  17. White privilege says it all, no justice from white Australia for Ingigenous people anywhere they tread – just ‘just-us’ hope the world remembers this when it comes time to vote for the UNSC

  18. I’ll give those white cunts ome what for!

  19. Ain’t no ‘rule of law’ in oz if ya black – just ask me!

  20. Accountability, that’s all that’s required ACCOUBTABILITY!!!!!

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